“Seeing a fig tree, Jesus went up to it but found nothing but leaves.
‘You will never bear fruit again,’ he commanded.”
Chances are, you’ve read this passage many times (Matt 21:18-20) and have probably felt sorry for the
innocent fig tree. You may have wondered if Jesus was experiencing his human side and was temperamental
or in a bad mood, or if he had a condemning side to his personality which just slipped out. And chances are
you’ve let it go because you really didn’t get it and those are not options which would fit his persona.
And you would be right - they don’t.
The Bible is an amazing gift. It keeps giving and giving. It gives you fresh insight throughout your whole life,
no matter how old you are. At my age I finally got the message of what went on with the fig tree, thanks to a
heads up from Joyce Meyer on TV one morning. It seems that she had always felt sorry for the fig tree too.
So I was not alone. And my guess is that Joyce and I have had a lot of company out there.
When fig trees begin to mature, underneath the leaves are the blossoms of the figs which develop rather
quickly into the fruit. Jesus approached this particular fig tree expecting figs under the leaves, but it had
none. The tree wasn’t producing the fruit God called it to do. Like the dirt which God commanded to grow
whatever was planted in it, likewise the fig tree had been commanded to produce figs. But this tree didn’t
and Jesus condemned it right then and there. You know the rest - it withered and died instantly.
His disciples were astounded, puzzled, bewildered - you name it. The whole gambit of responses.
The tree had all the outward signs of doing what it was called to do, yet underneath it was a phony, a fraud, a
hypocrite. Strong words, yet when it came face to face with Jesus, he instantly condemned it and its life was
over. We, too, have lots of outward signs of doing what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re supposed to be
bearing fruit. But mostly it’s like those hard peaches you get from the supermarket, which when they finally
ripen at home, are dry and starchy and nothing resembling the delicious juicy product they’re
supposed to be.
The signs are there, plenty of them. We attend church regularly. That’s a pretty consistent outward sign,
wouldn’t you say? We have collections of the latest in contemporary Christian music, we have bumper
stickers, we shouts lots of amens, we talk the talk and walk the walk, but we’re not bearing enough fruit to fill
one of those green plastic hand baskets you pick up at the door when you enter the store. Here’s what
Haggai tells us (Hag. 5:5,6):
“God says, ‘Think about your ways. You’ve planted a lot, but have harvested little.
You eat, but are still hungry. You drink plenty, but your thirst is never quenched.
You bundle up, but can’t get warm. Your wallet seems to have a hole in it because
you can never get on top of your finances.’”
Time to get real.